Archive for March, 2012

If you accept the premise we went to Afghanistan to find Osama Bin Laden – and that his earthly remains have been fish food for some months – why are we still there? Is there an argument to be made we are defending our national security? Are we making friends of the Afghan people? Are young Americans being killed regularly for any sane reason? Are we improving life for the indigenous population? Are we winning hearts and minds? If we left today and went back in 10 years, what would be different than what it was 80 years or so ago?

Asking these questions of thoughtful Americans of any political persuasion can bring silence to a crowded room. No one of my personal acquaintance – whose judgement I value – has a ready answer to any of them.

Well, that’s not quite true. The few answers I get most of the time are “I don’t have any idea” or “Can’t think of a reason” or “How do you befriend a population you keep killing” or “We need to finish what we started” or – silence. Just silence.

Except for one friend who shares my own feelings about Afghanistan. “GET THE HELL OUT! NOW!

No one I know has said to me “We are there to WIN.” If someone DID say that, my response would be “Win what?

Afghanistan has become nothing more than a “live” fire training range for our valued military. Many are being killed by “live” fire for purposes I cannot grasp. We are returning to civilian life damaged bodies, damaged minds and many lost souls who are trying to live with the consequences of a war with no end. Thousands of American families are being savaged by loss of a loved one. Or trying to help a member messed up in some way by experiences rational minds cannot accept. Or justify. And that they should not have had to endure.

In 2003, the CIA found Bin Laden. Had him cold. But the President at that time wouldn’t pull the trigger – even saying later that Bin Laden “wasn’t important” and “Frankly, I don’t think about him all that much.”

The next President DID pull the trigger. Which, in my mind means – and you’ll excuse the words – “Mission Accomplished.” If the purpose of going to Afghanistan a decade earlier was to find and liquidate that single terrorist – as we’ve been told many times that it was – what now? Why are we still there?

The old saw “those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” has never been more apt than when applied to Afghanistan. No nation – however well-intentioned or well-armed – has won anything there except thousands of graves and some battle ribbons to attach to a military flagpole. If we bombed the Afghan mountains flat and made a parking lot out of the place, we would still come away beaten. There is no victory to be won. No goal to be reached. No national pride to be salvaged. Theirs or ours.

We can stay in that impenetrable country till Hell freezes over and we’ll not change anything – not accomplish anything – not improve life for anyone beyond what is there this day. Nothing. But – in the process – we will continue to lose priceless lives, damage thousands more young American military minds and bodies, kill more civilians and spend billions of dollars. Hundreds of billions.

Aiding and abetting all this are many members of congress that refuse – absolutely refuse – to acknowledge the reality that wars we’ve fought will never be fought the same way again. Grasping for millions of dollars from defense contractors in their home districts, they refuse to learn from Iraq and Afghanistan what war has become and how most will be fought from here on. We continue to build tanks, aircraft and ships the Army, Air Force and Navy don’t want.

They obstruct and they fight for more unnecessary billions of dollars for unneeded military systems while learning nothing about the need for more counterinsurgency forces, smaller and more utilitarian weapons systems, fewer foot soldiers and more highly trained specialists. Again, even here, Afghanistan has seemingly not taught them anything.

Several terribly unqualified men want to be president starting in January, 2013. None of them are real presidential material and any one of them could inflict great damage on our nation. At least in my view. But if one of them – any one of them – said he’d have us out of Afghanistan 30 days from taking office, he’d get my vote, my dollars and my labor. Gladly.

That’s how badly I want us out.

“Hate is nothing new.” The recent words of a friend as we conversed about the latest hate crime in the nation – an Iraqi woman beaten to death with a tire iron – in her home – in California. A note near her body read “Go back to your country, you terrorist.” Hate? You bet! New? Shamefully, my friend was right. Hate. But not new.

Neither was the senseless shooting of teenager Treyvon Martin in Florida. Or three idiots in Tennessee who went looking for a black man – any black man. When they found an innocent one in a parking lot, they beat him, dragged him and crushed his skull. No, not new. Just more hate.

I agree with my friend about our long familiar history of hating one another. But I would offer three recent factors that I believe have increased the hate level and will continue to do so.

One is the ever-coarsening aspect of our society. Certain segments have always been more foul-mouthed than others. “Talks like a sailor.” “Swears like a longshoreman.” I got my doses early on the ranch from field hands. My Dad even fired a few for swearing in my tender hearing.

But now, foul words and actions are on the elementary play ground. Ask any 8-year-old. A new “family” movie in town recently featured a 15-year-old girl with hardly a sentence in which she didn’t use the “F” word. Movie was, of course, rated PG. Walk down most streets. Public transportation. Fast food joints. Been reading any teenage texts lately? Or listening to one end of a cell call? Hear what they call each other?

We accept it. Because – at best – we feel powerless to change it. At worst – we ignore it as best we can. “Just the way it is now,” we say.

So, hate speech just becomes another form of speech because it’s “just the way it is now.” It permeates what we’ll say and are willing to accept. We get used to it.

A second contributor to more hate around us is violent video games, movies and television. From about the time kids are learning to walk, they are learning to use a game controller. And the games – age-rated to keep the violent ones away, or course – are violent, brutal and deadly from the get-go. They kill over and over and over and over and over and over. Then the score is reset, everyone comes back to life and the murders begin again for any 8-year-old. Just like “real” life. Right?

So, from preteen up, kids are learning not the terrible realities of death, murder, senseless killing, mayhem and destruction heaped on someone else, but how to reset the scoreboard and watch death disappear. No remorse. No tears. Just push a button. You “hate” the enemy so you destroy it. At age 8.

And third, I blame more hate crimes on that old nemesis – the Internet. When I was a child in rural Washington State, I saw the body of a black man hanging from a tree. Lynched some hours before. Even the local newspaper wouldn’t print a picture. Now, it’s on the Internet thousands of times within minutes, on your cable news station and the local TV people are interviewing the family at 6 and 11. An isolated hate crime becomes just another set of electronic flashes on everyone’s living room wall. Or your “smart” phone.

The Net – in my opinion – has also served as a gathering place – a meeting room – for haters, bigots and wannabe-bigots. They used to be isolated from each other – and the rest of us – with no way to coalesce or communicate. Now, a few mouse clicks and you can find dozens and dozens of hate sites around the world or in some part of your town. They have new “party lines” to plug into and download a quart of hate. 24-7. What do you hate today? Black, Muslim, Mexican, Hispanic, handicapped, retarded, any other skin color, red hair, freckles? It’s all there on the huge web for the feasting.

What had been solitary hatred – confined by fear of being found out by the rest of us like so much hidden pornography – is now treated by haters as “just the way things are.” It’s “justified” because so many others feel just like your local neighborhood sicko. Must be O.K. ‘cause “everybody” feels the same way. Are there more of them? Well, statistically, there are more of all of us. So, yes, I think there are more of them, too. And now they’re connected in “community” as never before. They’ve “come out.”

As a nation, it wasn’t long ago we shipped thousands and thousands of Japanese-Americans to resettlement camps – read “concentration camps.” As a nation, we hated all of them. Never mind most didn’t know any more about Japanese politics and war plans than your average all-American teenager. We just universally hated. And we were wrong!

Yes, hate has always been with us. Cain and Abel saw to that. More of it now? I think so. We’ve mainstreamed it. We tolerate it. Sometimes, we even wallow in it. When I was 8-years-old, I cried every night for weeks after that lynching. Now, at the same age, a kid can kill thousands of black-skinned soldiers in a “game” and sleep like the baby he is.

Hate has permeated our politics. Listen to it. Read it. Watch it. Hateful speech, hateful wearing apparel, hateful television ads, racist tracts handed out at campaign gatherings, a woman at a shooting rage urging the candidate to make believe he’s shooting at the President, hateful and false accusations of race, religion and birthplace.

My friend Paul was right – hate is nothing new. But the seeming indifference to it – the acceptance of it – the universality of it – the accepted use of it – increased targets for it – the ease of spreading it – the exposure to it – all of that has increased many, many fold.

While I remember the sight and even the smell of that hanging, rotting body so many years ago, my grandkids can watch a picture of a re-enactment of that on television and it doesn’t even make them pause their ever-present cell phone conversation. Academically unacceptable. Maybe. But hate? Not to them.

It was hate to me. It still is. It will always be. Maybe that’s why I hate hate so much. It represents to me the ultimate destruction of whatever the target for it may be. And the hater, too. For reasons I’ve cited here, I believe we’re seeing more of it – tolerating more of it – accepting more of it.

We’ve been fed a lot of outright lies on the presidential campaign trail this year. Republicans so far. Not that they have a corner on the “loose-with-the-truth” syndrome. It’s just that they’re providing the only daily “I’m-better-than-you” hand puppet comparisons as they reach further down in the promise barrel.

It’s difficult to pick the worst one but I’m going to settle for Newt’s “I’m the $2 dollar-a-gallon gas guy.” A flat-out lie! Sadder than him saying it is knowing there are lots and lots of hurting people who believe him. Or want to. The current $4 dollar-plus is really hurting most those who can afford it least.

It’s shameless lying for votes. Period. Face it, Virginia. If any president of this or any other country had his druthers – or had it within his power in an election year – the current occupant of the White House would lower the price to two-bits a gallon. He can’t. Gingrich can’t. Nobody can.

So saying, the American Petroleum Institute has been doing some research on the future of our energy business. Keep in mind the A-P-I is made up of – and paid for by – oil companies. But in this case, what they’ve produced is a report worth paying some attention to.

A-P-I reckons if every piece of federal land – except national parks – was open for drilling, this country could produce an additional 10 million barrels of oil a day by 2030. About a 10% increase. If consumption were to stay at today’s levels, we would need not a drop of foreign oil. In 28 years.

“Great,” you say. “Drill, baby, drill.”

Whoa, there a minute, petroleum breath. Consider what those words from A-P-I really mean. If you have a favorite ocean beach, there would be a drilling rig on it. Fact is, there would be rigs pumping away on nearly ALL ocean beaches and a few miles out. Florida Keys? Yep. Hawaii, too? Yep. Roads going this way and that across pristine Alaskan Wilderness? Yep. All federal wilderness. Everywhere.

Drilling on “ALL federal lands excluding national parks,” remember? And those Canadian oil sands would be fully developed and we’d have fracking going on in watersheds all over our country.

And, even according to the petroleum industry’s own report, it’s not likely the price of gas would come down a nickle. Consider this. Suppose our domestic petroleum production increase did amount to 10%. Then suppose what gas prices would be if the Mideast countries cut their own production by 10%. It’d be a wash. And that’s considering current levels in demand are the same in 2030. Which ain’t likely.

Think all this drilling isn’t possible? Well, if we keep relying on petroleum-based energy to run this country, it’s not only “possible” it’s inevitable. Flat out unavoidable. Even the Petroleum Institute agrees.

Under the Obama administration, says the Energy Information Agency folk, there are about twice the rigs drilling out there as there were four years ago. Surprise! But the biggest factors driving the price of oil are increased production, speculators and new technology resdearch. And they are pretty much immune from the whims of politicians and their promises. Or lies.

Something else to consider. Suppose the numbers of offshore and beach rigs were allowed to expand. To reach the increased 10% production goal the A-P-I report uses as a target, you’d have to do that. But what would be the effects on tourism the beach communities rely on? What would happen to our wildlife? What about sanctuaries like the Florida Everglades and thousands of federal wetland acres in Louisiana? Yep, federal and state lands, too.

If you get really serious when legitimately discussing the price at the pump, all of this – and a whole lot more – comes into play. I haven’t even scratched the issue of political decisions – party or otherwise.

When someone like Dr. Gingrich makes the $2 a gallon pitch – then doubles down on it days later – he betrays not only his PhD but his own moral values. He thinks we’re all a bunch of Rubes straight off the turnip truck. He spouts his irresponsible drivel because he undervalues the intelligence of anyone else. Everyone else.

We’ll likely never see $2 dollar-a-gallon gas again. And we’ll certainly never see a President Gingrich.

Government over-reach? Road Apples!!!

Author: Barrett Rainey

I’ve had mixed emotions about our nation’s new health care law since it was enacted nearly two years ago. But it wasn’t til a recent email exchange with a friend that I finally made up my mind: I support it. If you want to go to the rock pile to get some for the stoning, go ahead. I’ll wait. But I’m going to say my piece before things start flying.

It’s officially called the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The shorthand title – used mostly by critics and the media – is Obamacare. I hate that name because the law is much more than that. So, for our purposes, it’s PPACA.

In terms of size and sweep for a government program, it ranks up there with Medicare and Social Security. Cost, too. While mostly the ignorant and far right – oops, repeated myself there – oppose it for “personal rights infringement” or “government overreach,” it’s really neither. We’ll get to that. Others oppose it on a cost basis which, at the moment, is unknown and climbing. And it will likely climb some more. But the alternative costs are climbing even more. And quickly!

For the record, I believe the out-of-proportion costs of health care in our nation will eventually drive us to a single-payer reality with the feds and some very large contractors replacing the health care system we now have. When I talk to medical professionals, most agree. That’s a major reason so many are selling their practices to hospitals and other large entities. Most see big changes coming and want to be “out front.”

If you, too, accept that premise, we’re on the same page. If you don’t, then you’re going to be in a constant state of anger as the world of administering care, insuring care and the financial tools to pay for care go through a lot of massive and expensive changes in the next dozen or so years. It will happen. You can bet the farm!

But back to PPACA. Many years ago I learned a valuable lesson from real political pros. When you want to tackle a large issue – like health care, tax reform, etc. – you work like hell to get at least the guts of what you’re after written into law. Modify, amend, give a little, compromise. Do whatever it takes to get it on the books. The reason: it’s much easier to amend and fix there than to keep fighting against those who want to stop you.

That’s what the President and his supporters did in this case. And unless the entire nation’s electorate joins the lunatic fringe November 6, PPACA will not be killed in the next congress. Amended? Probably. Should it be? Probably. But carefully. And with an eye to the very significant and fast-moving changes going on now in health research, coverage and delivery.

As a nation, we pour about 17% of our gross national product into health care. We can’t afford that. Percentage cost increases year-to-year are way out of control. These facts are forcing political and economic decisions that adversely affect all of us. It’s not sustainable. In my ever-so-humble opinion, PPACA will add to that cost burden. Which may force the single-payer decision sooner rather than later. As a consumer, that ain’t all bad.

Now, about “overreach” and “rights.” The U.S. Supreme Court will hear six hours of arguments Mar. 26-28 on some of that with a decision expected in about 90 days. It’ll be interesting to hear the kinds of questions from justices as we “sidewalk lawyers” try to guess the eventual ruling.

Absent a legal background, I can’t address interstate law and constitutional issues. There may be language in the law requiring changes to accomplish what needs to be done. Portions may have to be rewritten, added or deleted. But there are very common sense goals in what PPACA backers are trying to get done.

The loudest complaint from opponents is they’re being told they must buy health insurance or post a large bond to assure care when – not if – when they run up a large health care bill. “Government shouldn’t be making such personal decisions.” Oh, you mean like the car insurance you MUST buy to use public highways? Or you mean the driver’s license you MUST have for the same reason? Or the mandatory birth certificate MUST have to get said license? Or the Social Security paycheck withhold you MUST pay each week or month? Or the Medicare deduction? Or federal and state taxes you MUST pay? All written into existing law. If they weren’t, would you buy them or pay them? Most of us would. Many would not.

But my guess is many of those doing a lot of the complaining about “government forcing me to buy health insurance” may be short on car insurance or a valid driver’s license. Just a guess – based in part on the arrests for such violations that appear nearly every day in our small town newspaper. And of course, there are the motorcycle helmet laws in most states. And those mandatory fishing and hunting licenses. Planning and zoning laws that allow – or prohibit – certain things on your property. The laws of eminent domain held by nearly all levels of government.

But have to buy health insurance? “Damned government overreach!” Road apples!

As for “rights,” we all got ‘em. Me and mine, for example, have the “right” to not be expected to pay for anyone’s uninsured hospital care through higher insurance premiums and “creative” hospital billing. We have the “right” to not pay for someone’s hospital emergency room visits when he/she crashes a motorcycle. Without a helmet. Drunk. Our “right” doesn’t extend to paying for someone’s end-of-life care after years of smoking. Or the liver problems from a lifetime of alcoholism.

Above all, we have the “right” to expect all persons to be responsible for taking care of their families and themselves. We have those“rights” but massive, long-term evidence assures us we will not enjoy those rights because so many won’t be responsible. Won’t do what’s – right.

If you’re one of the responsible ones, a mandate to have health insurance will never be a problem. If you’ve not, that mandate can be a comfort to the rest of us.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with my grandkids being allowed to stay on their parents insurance until age 26; no problem with co-pays being eliminated for people who can’t pay them so they can get care; removal of lifetime insurance benefit caps for lifetime problems of disease or handicap; the Medicaid qualification being increased to 400% of poverty level when I remember all the long-term unemployed; health insurance exchanges run by the states for individuals and small businesses to shop for lower premiums; minimum standards/coverage for ALL health insurance policies.

More than all that, I have friends with pre-existing health conditions that have been denied health care coverage all their lives; the same coverage I and mine have enjoyed – and taken for granted – all OUR lives.

Our new health care law certainly needs revision. I’d be surprised if something that large could be written and enacted without amendment. But it needs to be done carefully – surgically – mindfully. It must be done with full consideration of today’s realities and not because voices ignorant of those realities feel “oppressed.” Unless this is done right – by the right people – with the right approach – the cost of keeping us well could make us economically very unhealthy.

All right. Throw your stone.

As a too-often recipient of large amounts of anti-Obama hate mail on the Internet for some time now, I’ve got to admit some of it has been beneficial. Yep, “makin’ a pig into a slipper” as Grandma Prudie used to say.

What it’s done is force me do more research to make sure the B.S. I thought it was was the B.S. it really was. Despite many pleas to correspondents, it keeps coming. Only now, giving in to the curiosity most serious reporters are born with, I’ve got more ready-answers of fact. Because I’ve tracked so many phony – and often outright racist – charges.

That should not be read as my always being ready to defend the President or his administration. I’m not. As is the case with all political inhabitants of the White House, there is always room for criticism, second-guessing or just complaining. Of all of ‘em. That’s just our “American way.”

But – in nearly all of this factually-vacant garbage – Mr. Obama is blamed for everything from promoting communism to the invention of the common cold. He does not and he did not. But the bogus charges just keep coming as the polluted – and often fraudulent or anonymous – trash keeps piling up.

I got one the other day that, at face value, was supposedly written by a columnist in the Wall Street Journal. Really ripping the President a new one! Got my blood boiling but not for whatever reason the sender had in seeing it got to my computer. After a little checking, it turned out the “columnist” was bogus; the article never appeared in The Journal and was – in fact – a “letter to the editor” in some small Iowa newspaper.

Got another recently. Long, very long missive filled with absolutely every charge you could think of blaming the President for sabotaging our entire economy over the last three years. Had I chosen to refute the refutable – which was nearly all of it – I’d have been researching for weeks. Instead, it was much easier to start with the first paragraph which blamed Obama – and “a congress controlled by Democrats in 2007″ – for sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average to “today’s low of 11,237.”

Going to the top of my I-net opening screen showed the Dow closing for that day at 12,884. Now that’s a small thing but it tells me that nearly all the rest of the content was as far from the truth. Just needed a little research.

Got another accusing Mr. Obama of “communistically” – the word the sender used – “taking over American car companies.” The sender said “we taxpayers now own and are operating GM, Chrysler and Ford.”

Well, for openers, Ford took no government bailout dollars. Ah, research when prodded. Chrysler – after posting the highest profit last month that it has had in over a decade – has paid more than half its loan. GM has paid back about half and posted record earnings. Which means more repayment. GM stock the Fed now owns will be held until the market price reaches a profitable point, then sold. All this as opposed to Mitt Romney’s advice that “they should have been allowed to go bankrupt.” Hundreds of thousands of jobs – if not millions – saved, all three companies making far better products than they used to and without any politicians “directing the companies” as several emails have misinformed me they did or do. They didn’t and don’t.

Another of the specious messages in my inbox – in fact many others – blamed the President for “interfering in our free-market economy” by making $30 billion in taxpayer-backed loans to small banks. “Money,” the sender said, “we’ll never see again.”

Well, actually, only $4 billion of the $30 billion set aside was loaned under the Small Business Lending Fund. It was anticipated some of those banks would go belly-up even with support and we taxpayers would lose about $ 1.3 billion. Fact is, Treasury Secretary Geithner has reported to Congress – under oath – the fund will return a net profit of about $80 million.

As for “interfering in our free-market economy,” we haven’t had a “free-market” economy in this country in more than 100 years. Haven’t had and won’t have. For many reasons. But the biggest is our ever-greater interlocking ties in the world economy. Our economic future – for better or worse – will rise or fall with most other nations. Nothing “free” about it.

But I digress. No president in our history has been the subject of such wide-spread vilification, outright lies and race-baiting as Barack Obama. Not one. The Internet has made it easier for cowards and hate-mongers to hide; for liars to lie; for racists to get outsized attention to their dementia; for those who are ignorant – or deliberately dedicated to being so – to continue in their sorry state. None of them, it seems, can be held personally accountable. Facts be damned!

But for the rest of us, we can be held accountable to do a little checking; some individual research as it were. Find out the facts. Not because we’re Republicans or Democrats or Independents. But because we’re Americans.

Believe me, the more checking you do about this tidal wave of B.S. on your computer screen, the more familiar you’ll be with the “delete” key. And your country. Research can be good for ya. Yeah, it really can.

There’s been an awful lot of phony moralizing by much of our print media about the content of this week’s “Doonesbury” comic strips. Artist/social commentator/cartoonist Gary Trudeau has been – you’ll pardon the word – “savaging” the legislatures in states where the content of a pregnant woman’s uterus has been – again, you’ll pardon the word – “savaged” by political ignorance.

Lest you have any doubt, I’m a “Doonesbury” fan of several decades. I support Trudeau, his right to draw-say-pillory as he has, and I’m absolutely disgusted by newspaper institutional censorship where it’s occurred. My personal/professional angst has been such that I’ve deliberately found – then passed on – the strips on a daily basis. If you’ve not seen them, go to and see what all the fuss has been about.

Part of my long-standing criticism of print editors regarding “Doonesbury” has been about a previous decision many of them made to put the strip on the comic pages. “Doonesbury” is not – and never has been – a comic strip in the traditional sense.. Trudeau’s material is taken mostly from the news of the day or recent events and is – in most cases – satire. Nearly always very, very fine satire. It belongs on the editorial pages. Always has. It’s opinion. It’s commentary. Putting the strip in the comics section makes as much sense as running George Will’s columns between “Dagwood” and “Peanuts.”

But my professional hackles are raised most by the double standard nearly all newspapers maintain. When doors are closed, records withheld or any information they seek is out of their grasp, they have apoplexy about “the people’s right to know.” They go into “attack mode” with headlines and editorial damnation of those standing between the news staff and the “public’s right to know.” They often go to court. You can count on it.

So, along comes controversy in the news – legislative overreach in women’s health matters – with thousands of inches of newsprint going on and on and on about the subject. Complete, in many instances, with physiological artwork to make sure readers of all ages know exactly what portion of the body we’re talking about. Tell ‘em how it works. Put it all out there.

“Mommy, what’s this?”

Then Cartoonist/Commentator Gary Trudeau takes up the cudgel with pointed EDITORIAL satire and these same “public’s-right-to-know” institutions go into a frenzy of self-righteousness, telling the public it does NOT have a right to know and the “none-or-your-business” material is censored. Yes, Virginia. Censored!!!

Had the editors made the right decision years ago about where to place Trudeau’s work on a daily basis, none of them would likely be knee-jerking today about the strip’s current content appearing in a “family newspaper.”

ED NOTE: I’ve always thought “family newspaper” was redundant and possibly an oxymoron. Oh, well.

I’m painfully aware – in the first person – of the constant struggle within a newspaper between the editorial and the business sides. The best ones drew a firewall between the two many years ago. And kept it strong. The worst ones – and there are a lot of “worst ones” today – have removed most of the bricks in that wall. Not only are they hedging news coverage at the behest – or imagined behest – of major local advertisers, they are also making value judgements about what local readers should be exposed to.

I understand the editorial logic of the firewall. And I totally reject its dismantling. When you start making judgements about what your readers should see for any reason – “Doonesbury” being today’s excellent example – you get into an editorial thicket of arbitrary decision-making that is unnecessary and self-defeating. Can you say C-E-N-S-O-R-S-H-I-P?

Treating Trudeau’s work as if it were a nudie magazine by putting it under the counter – or picking and choosing what is and what isn’t proper – is editorially amateurish at best; rank censorship at worst. If these journalistic do-gooders keep running “Doonesbury” strips in the comics section, they either don’t know the informational product they’re dealing with or they’ll soon start running pie recipes on the sports pages.

Voters in Oregon’s Fifth District Congressional Democrat primary this year will be greeted by a ballot containing what could only be called – charitably – candidate fraud. As a registered Independent, I won’t be see the tainted ballot but my Democrat friends will. Most are smart enough to figure it out.

They’ll find Rep. Peter DeFazio’s name. He’s held the seat for 25 years or so. And they’ll find the name Matthew Robinson, a 24-year-old first-timer with no – repeat NO – previous Democrat affiliation or elected political experience in his entire short life- nothing to earn respect or support from his “chosen party.” Most Democrats will remember DeFazio beat Republican Art Robinson in the 2010 general. Yeah, little Matt’s Pop.

To say there is bad blood between DeFazio and the Robinson’s is entirely correct if understated. Childish and certainly unprofessional. But it’s there. I’m not going to defend DeFazio for what he allegedly said or did during that last campaign. He’s more than capable. But it should be noted, as fact, that he and the elder Robinson possess significant egos and are poles apart politically. Fertile ground for an angry campaign.

Democrat DeFazio we know. He’s got a long voting record. GOPer Robinson Senior does not. But he’s made his crackpot views known. Here are some from his 2010 candidacy:

## The public school system is child abuse.
## Public schools should be abolished.
## Privatize social security. If Wall Street loses your money, tough luck.
## AIDS is a myth and a government conspiracy
## Medicare is a welfare subsidy and should end.
## Close federal Departments of Education, EPA, etc.
## Sprinkle nuclear waste over America.
## Dissolve radioactive waste and sprinkle it over the ocean.
## Put nuclear waste in the foundation of your next home.

Robinson Senior is a PhD chemist with a good deal of controversy in his background – professionally, personally, politically. He makes part of his living selling home-schooling materials – some with distinctly racist content. He got into a loud, personal battle with a small southern Oregon university over what he saw as “official discrimination” against his kids. Later, without proof, he charged Oregon State University was trying to louse up his kids grad programs as “political payback” to DeFazio. The State Board of Education quickly put the lie to that. Fact is, little Matt’s still there but won’t talk about either experience.

So you have a youngster with no political experience who registers as a Democrat, sets his sights very high on the U.S. House as his first electoral target and to – oh, yes – make a run on the balding,diminutive guy who beat his old man last time around.

Young Matt says it was all his idea, as was having brother Noah manage his Democrat campaign and Pop’s GOP general. Dad says he’s fine with that. Both brothers are, of course, steeped in Dad’s rather odd views of reality, relying on him for “professional” advice.

The kid makes no bones about his scheme being “payback” for how he thinks DeFazio defamed his Dad in 2010. Pop’s out stumping for contributions for both campaigns already. Probably won’t have much more success than he did two years ago. Had it not been for a right wing, multi-millionaire New York sugar daddy, the elder Robinson’s campaign would have been limited to hand bills, phone calls and emails.

The six counties in our congressional district are hurting – badly. We’ve been hit with the double whammy of a deep recession crippling the timber industry – our economic mainstay. And we’ve lost – or will lose – nearly all federal timberlands O&C subsidy funding that’s paid for much of county government services for years. We’re at the edge of a cliff down here.

I won’t defend DeFazio with whom I have my own differences. But – with a couple decades of seniority and working with members of the GOP majority in the House – he appears very close to getting a short extension of that federal lifeline because of institutional knowledge, respect from people in both parties and may wind up in majority party status again in November.

Those are not things I want to trade for a beginner, barely out of his teens, steeped in political lunacy and on a quest for revenge because he thinks his Daddy was ill-treated in an old political battle. Who in hell would this kid talk to in Congress? Even more important, who in hell would listen to him – a back-bench freshman with a political outlook skewed against reality?

This latest Robinson affair is a political travesty. There’s nothing here that’s properly motivated. None of our terribly important and terribly real local, state and national issues will be rationally discussed. No new, workable ideas will be presented. Ironically, if either Robinson got to Congress, the very voters who sent them there would be the same ones most hurt by doing so.

We can’t afford this kid. Or his old man. In 2010, five of our six counties went for Robinson. That must not happen again. Our neighborhood – these six counties of SW Oregon – are suffering the same economic hurt as the rest of the nation with the added load of loss of federal support that has been vital to our recent survival.

This “candidate fraud” is nothing more than a Robinson family feud. Go to it, Robinsons. But leave the rest of us out of your political dysfunction.

In defense of Rush

Author: Barrett Rainey

Well, there are four words readers of this column wouldn’t expect to see. Neither would some who’ve known me through the years or socially around town. Even my wife. Only a very few know I really mean them.

To be perfectly clear, I believe Limbaugh is a corpulent piece of broadcast garbage. Because of the savant-like devotion of his nutcase following, he has been able to divide, smear, undercut, defame, insult, mock, lie and disgust most thinking Americans more than any of his imitators. Beck included. The fact that Limbaugh has access to a microphone and a national broadcast system with which to daily spread his toxic mental waste is abhorrent to me. I’ve disliked – yea hated – him for years. Are we clear?

But – so saying – the current piling on by women, their defenders (like me), the President of the United States and a number of his sponsors is unwarranted. It’s wrong. He is being pilloried and hung out to dry on some electronic cross because he exercised his right to say what he said – disgusting as it was – by the same guaranteed right to free speech we all enjoy. No more. No less.

The time when freedom of speech becomes most important in our lives is when someone like Limbaugh – or the ACLU or Lady Gaga or anyone else – says something we hate. Something that offends. Something that is despicable, hurtful and absolutely abhorrent to our individual thinking and morals. That’s also the very time it is hardest to accept as a guaranteed principle of our cherished form of government. If you deny it then, your otherwise defense of free speech when it suits you is just so much – you’ll pardon the words – lip service.

The only surprise to me in the current outpouring of disgust directed at Rush is that it’s taken 20 years or more to happen. His daily admirers have heard much, much worse trash come out of his mouth. He’s offended, verbally trashed and made a mockery of free speech for a very long time. He’s what the law calls an “habitual offender.” But, as opposed to some lowbrow comedian who offends everybody, Rush only offends those who disagree with his narrow hate speech. How many years ago did he coin the word “femiNazies” to describe some women? Where was the national outcry all those years ago over a word he uses almost daily?

Seems to me the people most offended now are people who’ve never paid much attention to the guy before. Maybe never listened. Or listened and tuned him out. His attack on a private citizen like Ms. Fluke – his nastiness – his mental profanity – his arrogance – none of that is new. He roasts someone – anyone – five days a week and in reruns Saturday and Sunday.

I’m a former professional broadcaster. I’m also a private citizen of some years. In both capacities, Rush Limbaugh represents to me a cancer that is “Exhibit A” when making a case of how – and why – we’ve become so nationally divided. The “my-way-or-the-highway” guiding principle of the far right has been verbally fertilized by this guy for decades and he’s been made larger-than-life by the unthinking. His rudeness, arrogance and blind hatred of any thing or any one he disagrees with has been allowed to flourish and prosper – making him a millionaire many times over.

If you harbor similar feelings about Limbaugh, he’s not the problem. He does what he does – no matter how it offends – because he can. As a nation, we grant him the same speech guarantees we all expect as our own. He’s well-within his rights to fill the airwaves – and the craniums of his “dittoheads” – with distrust, division and outright hate. Despicable as that is.

No, if Rush Limbaugh and his words are offensive to you, your target for effective response is not him. It’s companies who advertize on his program and subsidize his kind. It’s hundreds and hundreds of radio stations that make money locally by selling advertizing time within his broadcasts. Yes, he’s right when he says losing several dozen national sponsors – and many dozens more locally – won’t make a lot of difference. There are more waiting to sign up for his brand of broadcasting. Because he makes them money. He sells what they’re selling. ‘Cause we buy it. Whatever it is.

But remember. Glenn Beck – a Limbaugh wannabe – lost his national TV gig because Beck went way too far off course and even Fox couldn’t sell his show to enough advertisers to make money. Offended people – buyers – sent the message economically. They stopped buying and tuned out.

The Achilles heel for trash-talking broadcasters like Limbaugh is not a frontal attack. Getting rid of him requires much slower – but highly effective – efforts to inflict some economic damage on those who pay his bill. It’ll take time. It’ll take paying more attention and “keeping the faith” for a long time. But it can be done.

First, tune out. Second, don’t buy.

Many years ago, there was a very fine American humorist named Sam Levinson. His humor – all of it – came out of his Jewish background. One of his best stories was about his mother taking him to his first day of kindergarten and her words to the new teacher.

“If Sam acts up and disrupts the class,” she said, “hit the kid next to him. Sam learns by example.”

You want to get rid of an electronic bully like Rush? Hit the guy next to him – the guy who pays his bills.

And do it soon. Very soon. ‘Cause I hate defending the son-of-a-bitch.

If I told each of you that Pres. Obama has six fingers on his right hand and that’s why he’s left-handed – then each of you told 20 others – by midday tomorrow, half the country would believe it. Maybe half the world. Damned Internet!

Baseless “facts” now circle the globe at light-speed and eventually take on a life of their own. They become so ingrained in our culture they can’t be killed. An unquestioning media often picks up many of them, uses them without researching or authenticating, then someone will say to you “Last night on the news, I found out why our President is left-handed. Ever count the fingers on his right hand?”

Economic writer Morgan Housel has examined three of these lies-that-will-not-die issues, noting one of our nation’s major economic problems is the acceptance of misinformation. “A tsunami of it,” he writes. To which I would add, economic news is not the only “information” we receive daily that is without factual basis. But I digress.

The three generally accepted “facts” Housel cites are (1) most of what we buy comes from China; (2) we owe most of our trillions in national debt to China and (3) we get most of our oil from the Mideast.

None of those – I repeat – NONE of those “facts” are true. With Housel’s help – and some research of my own – we’ll demolish them one by one.

MOST OF WHAT WE BUY COMES FROM CHINA: The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks how we spend our bucks. Just over 88% of the goods and services we buy are American-made. That’s 88%! Chinese-made goods and services account for 2.7%. That’s a fact! The remaining 9% or so comes from the rest of the world.

When Housel uses those numbers, people don’t believe him. They say, for example, “Everything Walmart sells is made in China.” I really doubt that claim. But that’s what “they” say.

But these are the facts. While Walmart has a $280 billion dollar effect on our national economy, the TOTAL U.S. economy is $14.5 trillion. In addition, people buy a lot more small stuff – from Walmart and elsewhere – so it appears Chinese products represent far more things than is really the case. Look at total American purchases and the China effect is very, very small.

CHINA OWNS MOST OF OUR NATIONAL DEBT: Not true again. At the end of 2011, our national debt – again, Bureau of Labor Statistics and other federal agencies as the sources – was $14.9 trillion. Of that, China holds promissory notes for $1.3 trillion. About 7.6%. Elsewhere overseas, Japan has $1 trillion of our debt; the United Kingdom about $429 billion. Together, they hold more than China.

Know who owns most of the rest? We do. Us. There are several government funds – Social Security for example – holding it. The Federal Reserve alone has another $1.6 trillion – again, that’s more than China. Interest on Fed Reserve debt is paid back to – US. To the U.S. Treasury.

MOST OF OUR OIL COMES FROM THE MIDEAST: “You are wrong, petroleum breath!” The U.S. Energy Administration figures our consumption of Middle East oil is about 9.8%. That’s a fact. Less than 10%.

As a nation, we consume about 19-million barrels of crude products a day. About 49% of that comes from our own domestic sources. Yes, Virginia – 49%! The other 41% is imported from the rest of the world – exclusive of the Mideast – with Canada and Mexico furnishing twice as much as all Mideast countries combined.

It would be a perfect world if we could produce all the energy we need. We can’t. At least not now. But I’d settle, at the moment, for the vast majority of Americans just knowing the facts about who we buy what from. And how much.

Housel ended his epistle with the words of the late sage, Andy Rooney. “People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe.”

Now, forget about my fiction of the President’s added digits. Just concentrate on these three national economic myths that need setting straight. You tell 20 others – have them tell 20 – and maybe we can make a difference. Maybe.

A misconception is a misconception until people are told the truth. Then it becomes a lie.

You’re going to have to indulge me a bit here and wade through some background before getting to the “meat” of the blog. Editors call it “burying the lead.” But you’ll find it.

Here’s a list of U.S. Senators – all Republican. You’ll note that, before they were Senators, they had other careers. O.K. Here we go:

## John McCain – Arizona – U.S. Navy fighter pilot
## Jon Kyle – Arizona – Lawyer and lobbyist
## Mike Crapo – Idaho – Lawyer
## Jim DeMint – South Carolina – Market researcher
## Orrin Hatch – Utah – Lawyer
## Richard Burr – North Carolina – Seventeen years a “market researcher”
## Chuck Grassley – Iowa – Assembly line worker
## Lamar Alexander – Tennessee – Former governor
## Roy Blunt – Missouri – County Clerk, Springfield, Illinois – 12 years

Interesting backgrounds all. A real cross-section of Americana. And all – plus 40 of their equally qualified compatriots in the U.S. Senate – deemed themselves medically and morally prepared by individual backgrounds and training, vot allow employers to deny certain types of health care coverage to every citizen in this county. To make religious or philosophic health care exclusion decisions backed with the force of federal law.

While the headlines of this tragic scenario dealt mostly with contraception, the bottom line was much worse. If the employer made health insurance a part of the employee benefits offered, he/she could eliminate any medical condition he/she desired. For any reason. And the discrimination – even if based on some crackpot notion like “aspirin will cure cancer – would have been legal.

Somehow, a lot of elected Republicans in this country have suddenly become experts in writing and passing laws dealing primarily with women’s health. Former shoe clerks, fighter pilots, grocery managers and gas pump jockeys are replacing gynaecologists and obstetricians as arbiters of what women facing pregnancies should have to medically endure. Hardware salesmen, house painters, landscapers and elementary teachers are drawing on their “training” to write laws allowing legal discrimination to health care access.

Our national credit rating has gone to Hell. More than six million unemployed are crying out for help. Homeowners are becoming renters or homeless. Billionaires are paying huge sums to reshape our society into their own narrow visions. Most states are badly in need of federal help. But – ignoring all that and more – many GOP members of congress and legislatures border-to-border are debating uterus probes, selective health insurance discrimination and matters supporting their personal religion.

Most who closely follow the political twists and turns in this country are at a loss to understand how otherwise intelligent humans can turn away from their oaths of office to wade into a morass of losing political issues. They shouldn’t be confused. The groundwork for this was laid in the Republican Party at least four decades ago. It’s been festering and predictable for many years.

What hasn’t been so predictable is that it would all surface at the same time in so many legislative bodies. Many more than you’ve heard of. Some of this has been thrown in the hoppers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington and a lot of other state legislatures, though wise leaders have been able to keep much of it buried. So far.

But Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Arizona and several other states are wallowing in this phony morality play. Supported by governors who are right down there in the mud with them, they’re putting laws on the books that will keep the courts of this country busy for years and years. You can find them in the Yellow Pages under the heading “Attorney Employment – Perpetual.”

I’ve come to regard this phenomena as a Republican Party kamikaze mission. Some of these people have been working for years to get to positions of political leadership. And they’ve finally got it. So it’s time to put the whole agenda out there and – suicidally – make a run to the finish line. I really can’t come up with any other plausible reason.

Is it a winning strategy that will maintain these people in office to keep working on their agendas? I don’t think so. My sense is they’ve alienated Independents everywhere – which neither party can win any election without. And that normal Republicans who’ve sort of dismissed many of these people as just “goofy aunts and uncles” have become aware their party is being taken off a cliff and they don’t like it. Were I a woman of any political party – well, don’t get me started.

It’s not Democrats making mischief – although they’re loving it. It’s not the Obama campaign – which will certainly capitalize on the social and political wreckage being wrought. There is no liberal media here to blame. The headlines come from the votes and the subject matter these people want to talk about. Whatever political damages are done will be at the hands of people currently doing the voting. Wounds – surface or fatal – will have been self-inflicted.

I keep looking back at that list of U.S. Senators who voted to legalize health care discrimination. There must’ve been some special wisdom or great human insight that came with their oath of office that escaped me. Think I’ll go read it again.